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What #LanguageMatters mean to people living with Type 1 Diabetes

Edited: 17.04.2024

Edward McKenzie

Clinical Support Programme Coordinator, Cambodia, A4D

1. Support for people with diabetes: Our words can be a source of cheer and comfort

A key part of healthcare is good communication, especially when it comes to taking care of a long-term chronic condition like Type 1 Diabetes. Healthcare workers and caregivers are very important in the lives of people with Type 1 Diabetes. They do a lot more than just give medical care; they also offer emotional support for people with diabetes. The emotional health of people with Type 1 Diabetes can benefit greatly from increased awareness of the language used by caregivers and healthcare professionals supporting them.

People with Type 1 Diabetes can have a higher quality of life as a direct result of the language we use. Language may encourage and inspire them to follow through with the treatment plan and achieve whatever they set their minds to.

2. Staying away from blaming and shaming

Type 1 Diabetes is a challenging condition that is influenced by numerous factors. It may be beyond the capacity of the human mind to keep up with the changing variables. Healthcare professionals and caregivers shouldn't blame or shame people with Type 1 Diabetes when they have problems like elevated blood glucose levels or other complications. It will go a long way if they offer help that is kind, loving, empathetic, understanding, and non-judgmental.

For instance, it can make a huge difference to say something like "It's okay to make mistakes sometimes; let's talk about how to make better food choices going forward" instead of "You should have eaten healthier." This is a great way to provide support for people with diabetes. Language that makes people feel bad about themselves can also lower their self-esteem, worsen mental health, and make it harder to maintain a healthy blood glucose level.

To help a patient feel better about their self-worth, it's best to use person-centred language that separates the person from their Type 1 Diabetes, like "individual living with Type 1 Diabetes" or "person with diabetes." The words that are used can make a person living with Type 1 Diabetes feel better and more empowered, rather than defeated. They are the people who can live past their Type 1 Diabetes.

3. Support for people with diabetes: Showing empathy and compassion

Another way to provide support for people with diabetes is through empathy. Empathy is one of the most important parts of a supportive conversation. People who work in health care and take care of people with Type 1 Diabetes may want to learn more about the mental and physical issues they deal with every day.

A lot can change in how people with Type 1 Diabetes feel about their healthcare team if they say kind things that make them feel cared for. Instead of saying, "You need to control your blood glucose," try saying, "I understand managing your blood glucose can be challenging, but we are here to help you find solutions. This small change in wording shows that you desire to help, guide, and support the person with Type 1 Diabetes and their challenges.

4. Providing clear and positive reinforcement

Taking care of Type 1 Diabetes requires a lot of daily tasks, such as checking blood glucose levels, giving insulin, and making appropriate food choices. Healthcare professionals and caregivers should give clear directions and positive reinforcement rather than making unhelpful and shaming comments and questions.

Instead of saying, "You're not doing a good job with your insulin doses," you can provide emotional support by saying, "Let's work together to fine-tune your insulin doses for a better blood glucose level."This method motivates people to work together and gives the person with Type 1 Diabetes the power to be involved in their own care.

5. Encouraging questions and open dialogue

For people with Type 1 Diabetes to feel safe in asking questions and voicing their concerns, a safe space must be established through supportive communication. This is another important way to provide support for people with diabetes. Caregivers and healthcare professionals may actively promote two-way communication.

Please do not guess what people with Type 1 Diabetes know or feel. Instead, ask them, "What questions do you have about your treatment plan?" and also, "How do you feel about managing your diabetes?" This approach builds a sense of teamwork and makes sure the voice of the person with Type 1 Diabetes is heard.

The #languagematters movement has done several research in the diabetes community that shows how important it is to communicate in a way that is positive and empowering.

6. Acknowledging achievements

Dealing with Type 1 Diabetes is a journey that lasts a lifetime and is full of hurdles and successes every day. A good foundation can make a big difference. ​This will boost their sense of self-worth and esteem in a way that lasts and supports their success. People who care for and work with people who have Type 1 Diabetes may try to recognize and praise their accomplishments, no matter how big or small they are.

For example, if a patient has kept their blood glucose levels within the goal range for a week, tell them, "I'm impressed with your dedication and commitment to working hard in keeping your blood glucose level within range. Your hard work is paying off!" Hearing nice things like this can make you feel better and is a way to provide emotional support for people with diabetes. People who have Type 1 Diabetes might feel better about taking care of themselves and also those around them. Who knows, maybe your kind actions will help them #payitforward to other people.

7. #LanguageMatters is a living statement

Having a supportive conversation using the appropriate language is a very useful tool in communicating with people with Type 1 Diabetes.

Empathetic, non-stigmatizing language, clear directions, open communication, positive framing, and recognition can enhance any person with Type 1 Diabetes's physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Choosing words wisely and providing constant support, may help people with Type 1 Diabetes face this chronic condition with confidence and resilience, improving their quality of life.

LANGUAGE MATTERS to people with diabetes. To live well with Type 1 Diabetes, we must figure it out alongside one another.

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